False Morel Identification guide
Updated: Jun 11
It’s nearly Morel season, you are all excited and ready to go you know where you are going to look. Now there is another species (that is quite rare in the UK), that you need to know about.
The edible Morel mushroom family are made up of a large group of Morel species including; the Yellow Morel or Common Morel, the White Morel and the Black Morel all of these mushrooms are edible but differentiating between them is difficult due to the colours that each Morel species can take on (although each species has a name of a colour they can all range hugely in colour) luckily the difference between the False and the True Morel is much easier to define.
The False Morel
The false morel, scientifically known as Gyromitra esculenta, is a mushroom species that is generally considered toxic and potentially lethal if consumed.
The false morel is not native to the UK, and its occurrence is relatively rare compared to other mushroom species. It is occasionally found in some parts of the country, particularly in Scotland and the northern regions of England. The mushroom prefers woodland habitats, often appearing in association with certain tree species, such as birch, beech, and sometimes conifers.
While it is possible to encounter false morels in the UK, it is crucial to remember that they are considered toxic and should never be consumed. The toxins present in false morels can cause severe health complications, including gastrointestinal symptoms, liver damage, and even death.
False Morel Identification
The false Morels are a group of fungi related to the true morels which fruit in the same places at about the same time. In false morels the fruit bodies (the mushroom itself) is wrinkled rather than honeycombed. Again there are many species of false morel but there are generic ways to tell the true and false morel apart that apply to all of these poisonous mushrooms.
False morels have wrinkled, irregular heads that resemble a brain. They differ from true morels in three very distinct ways:
a) The cap surface of False Morels has lobes, folds, flaps or wrinkles--not pits and ridges like a True morel. Their caps seem to bulge outward instead of being pitted inward.
b) The bottom edge of the cap hangs away completely free from the stem. On True morels the bottom edge of the cap is attached to the stem
c) The key and easiest way to tell them apart is to cut them in half lengthwise. False Morels exhibit a solid or cottony mass, True morels are completely hollow.
So to reiterate one of the easiest ways of determining the false morel is by slicing it lengthwise as false morels are not hollow. The false morel is also quite heavy and is solid in the stem and meaty, and often referred to as ‘cottony’.
Although the false Morel is quite rare you have to be aware of it as the seasons of the false and true Morel are the same and the False Morel is highly toxic, sometimes deadly – do not attempt to eat the False Morel and before indulging in a Morel dinner please be sure that you are eating the genuine and delicious Wild MorelMushroom!
Prior to eating anything that you have found or foraged make sure that you have been advised by an experienced forager and mushroom hunter. This guide is not enough.
One final tip, if you do find a spot or if you are particularly lucky several, keep a record of them as they’ll probably be back next year as well!
Pictures: Edible or true Morel Top Right, False Morel Bottom Left.